Welcome back to Mercedes’ Marketplace Madness! Working with cars is a dream, and through it, I’ve amassed a hoard of unreliable nightmare cars and have gotten to write fun stories. It’s still sort of weird that the crap I do with cars is now work. Some of this involves always being on a search for my next vehicle, even if I don’t need one. Since I’m shopping all of the time, I always have an evolving list of vehicles for sale. So it’s time to share it with you!
This week, we have a famed Japanese classic, an obscure scooter, vintage iron, and more! These are cars that I’d definitely get posters of to hang on a wall.
I search the entire country for a good balance of price and vehicle condition. But sometimes, some really cool cars end up for sale with really high prices. It’s disappointing, of course, but there’s nothing wrong with window shopping and dreaming.
So join me in looking at some fun cars, motorcycles, and neat trucks from the past and present.
1958 Studebaker Transtar – $16,500
As a historian at the Studebaker Drivers Club writes, Studebaker was originally founded in 1852. Back then, it built wagons. Studebaker expanded into electric cars in 1902, and started assembling gasoline cars in 1904. In those days, Studebaker had partners in the Garford Company and Everitt-Metzger-Flanders. Studebaker finally started marketing its own cars in 1912. Its first commercial vehicle was a delivery car. Between 1914 and 1915, the company began building trucks and buses.
By 1956, Studebaker’s truck line had proven itself over the decades. Studebaker once competed with the likes of Mack, and even provided trucks to the U.S. military. Studebaker trucks found themselves leading highway-building convoys in Alaska and with allied nations in the UK and the Soviet Union.
Transtar was the name given to Studebaker’s 1/2-ton, 3/4-ton, 1-ton, 2-ton, and 2-ton trucks in 1956. Transtar trucks saw evolutionary improvements over its predecessors like a 12V electrical system and half-ton models had an available limited-slip differential.
This 1958 Transtar half-ton was given a cab and bed-off restoration and comes with a 185 cubic-inch L-head straight-six. That’s making 92 horses and it reaches the rear wheels from a manual transmission with overdrive. It’s $16,500 on Hemmings in Aubrey, Texas.
1978 Mercedes-Benz 450SL – $9,900
As the story goes, New York-based Mercedes-Benz importer Max Hoffman saw opportunity in Mercedes’ 1952 W194 racer. He felt that selling a roadgoing version of the racer in America was what the brand needed to rebuild itself after World War II. The SL launched at the 1954 New York International Auto Show for a staggering $6,820, or $75,250 today. The gullwing car was a hit, and in 1957 it was joined by a convertible.
Clean examples of early SLs can get crazy expensive, but you can find an inexpensive example of SL history if you know where to look. The R107 SL first entered production in 1971, then kept going until 1989. The R107 and C107 brought a new design language, as well as available V8 power. If you’re old enough, you might remember seeing one on television in Dallas.
Under the hood of this 450SL is a 4.5-liter V8 making 180 HP and fed with fuel injection. This one has had a lot of work done to it, from timing chain guides to transmission work. It’s said to be rust-free for $9,900 on Hemmings in Milford, Ohio with 77,000 miles.
1952 Buick Super Riviera – $19,350
As the Henry Ford writes, Buick created the Riviera to compete in the personal luxury car space with the Ford Thunderbird. At the time, the Riviera name had been used on different versions of existing Buicks since 1949. This Riviera comes from before its famed redesign and before it became its own model. But it’s still plenty beautiful with its two-tone paint, chrome, and white walls. In 1952, the Riviera name was given to long-wheelbase versions of the Roadmaster and Super.
This one is a Super Roadmaster, and sports a 263 cubic-inch Fireball straight-eight that makes 128 HP. It comes with new tires, a new interior, and new chrome. At least to my eye, this thing looks minty! It’s $19,350 on Facebook Marketplace in Pasco, Washington with 68,000 miles.
1995 Honda CBR250RR MC22 – $2,258
Do you love how Formula 1 cars used to sound? Do you wish that you owned something that sounds like you’re winning an F1 race, but you’re still within the speed limit? Back in the 1990s, Honda built a motorcycle that does just that.
This CBR250RR — designated MC22 internally — from 1995 is a product of wild times in Japan. The economy was still booming, motorcycle racing was hot and the roadgoing sportbikes were even hotter. Japan’s so-called Bubble Era produced some unbelievable cars, but the country’s motorcycles weren’t left out of the madness.
While many riders lusted after flagship sportbikes, licensing restrictions and taxes made small-displacement bikes far more attainable. So what did the manufacturers do? They took highly sought-after designs then scaled them down to the 250cc-class. But there was one additional problem: Japan limited the 250cc class to 45 horsepower.
That didn’t stop Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki or Yamaha, as they simply piled on the cylinders and shot rev limits sky high. How high? Suzuki’s GSX-R250 redlined at 17,000-RPM and Kawasaki’s ZXR250 called it quits at 18,000. The Honda CBR250RR — sometimes affectionately called the Babyblade — topped them all with its 19,000-RPM redline. Honda’s 250cc four-cylinder has an adorably tiny bore of 48.5mm and a stroke of 33.8mm, and the engine produced just 44 HP and 17.7 lb-ft torque.
These machines were never officially offered stateside, so you’ll have to import one. Normally, I’d take you to a site in Japan, but this time, we’re headed to Australia, where I found a MC22 for dirt cheap. This 1995 MC22 on Gumtree has roughly 55,900 miles and a torn seat, but you can have it for the equivalent of $2,258. Factor in shipping (which may cost roughly $2,000 depending on carrier) and you can get it for cheaper than you could get one from Japan.
2013 Mazda Mazdaspeed3 – $14,900
Mazda has long offered enthusiasts practical cars with speedy variants. Many enthusiasts might say that Miata is always the answer, but if you need the space, the Mazdaspeed3 offers a lot for what you pay.
In a way, the Mazdaspeed3 is sort of the anti-Miata. Where the Miata is a cute two-seater driving the rear wheels, the Mazdaspeed3 seats five and attempts to convert your front tires into pure smoke. Reviews for this suggest loads of torque steer, so it sounds like it wants to put you into a wall, too.
What’s going on here? The Mazdaspeed3 features a turbocharged 2.3-liter four making 263 HP and 280 lb-ft torque. Yep, this is a hatch good enough for a small family that’s just a few mods from kissing 300 HP. It’s hard to find cheap Mazdaspeed3s that are both stock and have clean titles, but this one does it. This 2013 Mazdaspeed3 appears to be stock for $14,900 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with 62,598 miles.
2006 Ariel Atom 2 – $52,000
According to the Ariel Motorcycle Club of North America, the original Ariel company dates back to 1869. Back then, James Starley — a foreman at a sewing machine company – decided to start building bicycles. He joined forces with the William Hillman that co-founded Hillman Motor Car Company. The pair made wire-spoke wheels and used them to make the lightweight Ariel bicycle. This bicycle was one of those old-school units with a larger front wheel and smaller rear wheel. The company continued to build bicycles for years (and merged with a number of companies) until 1898, when the company began experimenting with motorized vehicles. Ariel made motorized trikes and even made tiny cars.
Ariel went on to make motorcycles from 1901 to 1967, creating innovative designs along the way like the Red Hunter, and the Leader, a motorcycle with clever features that some of today’s scooters have.
In 1991, designer Simon Saunders decided that he wanted to build lightweight sports cars and started Solocrest Ltd. in the UK. The design for what would become the Ariel Atom was drawn in 1996 by a Coventry University design student named Niki Smart. Smart’s lecturer was none other than Saunders. In 1999, Saunders decided to rename his company to the name of a long-dead motorcycle manufacturer, Ariel. The Ariel of today doesn’t appear to be related to Ariel Motorcycles, but the company claims the half-century of motorcycle history that came long before it.
While the first Atoms began hitting the road in 2000, the United States had to wait until 2005, when Ariel partnered up with Brammo Motorsports to produce the Atom 2 in the States. That’s the car that you see here. Power comes from a 2.0-liter GM Ecotec LSJ four with an Eaton supercharger. This engine is normally found in a Chevy Cobalt SS making 205 HP. Here? It’s making 300 HP and 240 lb-ft torque. A period Motor Trend review suggests that driving some scaffolding with a Cobalt engine in the back is exactly as fun as you think it is. And it’ll get to 60 mph in just 3.6 seconds. So, you get supercar performance for just $52,000 with a vehicle legal to drive on U.S. roads. It can be yours from the seller in Fishers, Indiana with just 4,150 miles.
1957 Lancia Appia Series 2 – $15,500
Here’s a classic sedan with Italian flair. As with many quirky vintage cars, our friends at the Lane Motor Museum have found fun history about these little cars:
Lancia’s Ardea model was replaced by the Appia in 1953, which remained in production for ten years. Produced in three Series during its run, improvements along the way included a larger trunk, larger rear glass, longer wheelbase, more power, and a larger bench seat. The traditional Lancia shield grille was replaced by a lower hood and a wide, horizontal “mouth” in the later Series 3 cars, as seen here. Common to all were other Lancia trademarks – a small-displacement, narrow-angle (10° in this case!) V-4 engine; it was the last model to use Lancia’s signature sliding-pillar front suspension.
The Berlina (sedan) seen here was the most common style, but Lancia offered the Appia in van, pickup truck, and ambulance configurations as well. Additionally, carrozzerie such as Zagato, Pinin Farina, Vignale, and Viotti offered all sorts of special-bodied Appias – coupes, convertibles, and sports models were all popular. Lancia has had a long history of Motorsports, and the Appia was no stranger to success in the hands of privateers in the late 1950s and early 60s. In 59 international races, the Appia scored 4 overall victories, 19 class wins, 4 poles, and 12 podiums. Not bad for a 1.1 liter car!
This 1957 Appia is a part of the second series, which features a more powerful engine, more modern style, and more interior volume. Power comes from a 1089cc V4 making about 43 HP, good for a top speed of about 75 mph.
This car has gone through a mechanical rebuild, which included the engine, carburetor, brakes, gas tank, cooling system, and more. That means that this car is a turn-key classic, just get in and go! It’s $15,500 on Facebook Marketplace in Syracuse, New York with 40,000 miles. Listing courtesy of Obscure Cars for Sale.
1992 Mazda RX-7 Type R – $50,500
The Mazda RX-7 is famous with fans of Japanese Domestic Market vehicles. It comes from the time when Japanese automotive and motorcycle producers were running high off of implementing new kinds of technology to make more advanced vehicles. These efforts in the 1980s through 1990s have produced greats like the Honda NSX, Honda CX500 Turbo, the Suzuki Cappuccino, and more. And then there’s this, the third-generation (FD3S) of the Mazda RX-7. Already a car famed for being different, the FD took it to another level. I’ll let the Audrain Automobile Museum explain:
Mazda had already established itself in the Japanese sports car world with its 1978 RX-7 model introduction, putting it on par with Datsun’s 240Z in price and performance. What made the RX-7 stand out from the crowd was the unique front engine Wankel rotary engine which offered a superior power to weight ratio as compared to conventional piston engines. After changes and upgrades to styling and handling, the 1992 RX-7 FD grew in size and proportions with an increase in engine displacement and fuel injection. In addition to newly styled bodywork, the Gen 3 RX-7 featured a Hitachi developed sequential twin turbo induction system , a first for mass production automobiles. The result was 252 horsepower from a mere 1.3-liter twin rotor engine and was coupled to a 5-speed short throw gearbox but carried a curb weight of under 3000 lbs.
The RX-7 used just one turbo at lower engine speeds to maintain a sharp response. However, when you punch the throttle, you’ll find the second turbo kicking in at about 4,000 RPM. Part of the RX-7 FD’s fame is due to the vehicle showing up in media from Initial D to The Fast And The Furious. They were in video games, too. Today, enthusiasts feeling nostalgic scoop them up for some incredible amounts of money.
This 1992 RX-7 Type R is still expensive, but I’ve seen worse. The Type R trim nets you gear like upgraded springs and shocks, a lip spoiler, and a rear deck spoiler. Power comes from a 1.3-liter twin rotor making 255 HP and 217 lb-ft torque. This one was reportedly purchased from the original owner then imported, and it appears to be in great shape. It’s $50,500 on Facebook Marketplace in Albuquerque, New Mexico with 16,500 miles.
2005 Honda Big Ruckus – $3,800
The Honda Ruckus is a wild little scooter with fans all around the world. But, there’s one thing that a regular 50cc Ruckus couldn’t do without major modification, and that’s to go much faster than 35 mph. Fans asked for a Ruckus-like scooter with more grunt. Honda responded with the Big Ruckus. You get the same butch looks as a small Ruckus, but 250cc of power and highway-capable top speeds. This will go about 75 mph like a Honda Rebel 250 does, but it looks way cooler. Despite fan desires, Honda didn’t sell many of them. The Big Ruckus was available in America for just 2005 and 2006. It lasted a little longer in Japan, surviving from 2004 through 2007.
Today, these have a cult following, but they can still be found for an inexpensive price. This 2005 Big Ruckus can be yours for $3,800 in Dumas, Texas with 7,000 miles.
That’s it for this week. Also, as a reminder, you can always submit vehicles to be featured in this series. Thank you for reading!